The deal is a win for Marriott who is up against other global hotel groups interested in acquiring independent properties that expand their loyalty guests' options.
The resort near downtown Nassau and the global hotel company based in Bethesda, Maryland, announced Wednesday that Atlantis is joining the Autograph Collection, a group of independent hotels that are part of Marriott’s global sales, reservations and rewards systems.
Rick Hoffman, Marriott International’s executive vice president of mergers, acquisitions and business development, said in an interview that the company has been eying Atlantis since it established the Autograph Collection in 2010.
Then, the property still belonged to Kerzner International, which opened Atlantis in 1998. As part of a debt restructuring, Kerzner handed ownership of the resort to Brookfield Asset Management in late 2011, and Marriott continued talks with the new owner.
“This has been a happy ending to a fairly long story,” Hoffman said.
Atlantis, the collection’s first property in the Bahamas, will be integrated into the Marriott system in the fall. Hoffman said the addition of the property, which also includes a casino, golf course, retail complexes and more than 20 restaurants, will give Marriott loyalists new options.
“Our customers are looking for more and more unique experiences, different place to go,” he said.
George Markantonis, the resort’s president and managing director, said Atlantis would benefit from the wide reach of Marriott’s loyalty program, which has 45 million members.
Even with a quarter of the resort’s business coming from groups, Markantonis said he sees potential for growth in that area as well.
“There are amazing group and convention facilities which I think we will be able to expose to a broader market thanks to [Marriott’s] reach,” he said.
Wednesday’s news follows an earlier announcement that the resort had completed a $1.95 billion recapitalization, which included a $195 million infusion from owner Brookfield Asset Management as well as $1.75 billion from a group of other lenders. Marriott provided a $100 million mezzanine loan as part of the package.
Brookfield also announced that it had established a new management company, Brookfield Hospitality, to replace Kerzner International, which has a contract to manage the resort through Sept. 9.
While the management company itself is new, it will be made up of people who have been operating the resort.
“Our view was that we wanted to bring the management in-house to Brookfield, but we wanted to do it using the expertise of the people who had been running the property,” said Andrea Balkan, managing partner of Brookfield Real Estate Financial Partners, the subsidiary that includes Atlantis in its holdings.
In an emailed statement, a Kerzner spokesperson said the company is proud of its accomplishments in the Bahamas, especially establishing the Atlantis brand.
“We are now expanding Atlantis internationally with the flagship Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai and our new development Atlantis, Sanya in China,” the statement said. “The Atlantis brand has been driving significant development interest in new markets and we look forward to continuing to expand it globally.”
On Paradise Island, Balkan said Brookfield plans to continue to invest in Atlantis in the coming years, though she would not say what changes might be in store.
“We’re going to continue to innovate, we’re going to continue to come up with new and exciting attractions to really firm up our position in the family market, leisure market and group market,” she said.
The iconic property is about to get some major competition, with the $3.5 billion Baha Mar development set to open in December. That project, on Nassau’s Cable Beach, includes four new hotels, a casino, golf course and convention center.
Balkan said none of the recent changes announced at Atlantis are in response to the nearby development.
“I think Marriott’s a phenomenal distribution channel, and I think the Marriott addition to our team helps us compete, but it’s not specifically designed to compete with the resort down the road,” she said, pointing out that competition comes from South Beach, Orlando, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. “This helps us to compete with everything that’s being done. . . . It provides us with one more tool in our toolbox.”
(c)2014 The Miami Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services.
Photo credit: A view of the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. Getty Images